4 Ways Living With Chronic Migraines Has Changed How I Dress


One of the first things you might notice about me is my appearance, even on a day when I don’t have a migraine.

Coping with a chronic illness can be no mean feat. While migraines come and go, the changes I make to my lifestyle need to remain consistent. Because weather can be a potential migraine trigger, I consciously and carefully manipulate the way I dress in order to reduce the damage from unavoidable environmental factors.

I realize you may have seen me walking across campus, looking so ridiculous you had to giggle. I wish you understood where I’m coming from. These are the major changes you’ve seen in my wardrobe, and the corresponding story.

1. It may be 60 degrees Fahrenheit outside, and while you pirouette among the fall leaves in your summer skirt, I am already bundled up in a couple of scarfs and a jacket. “Don’t you look proper today!” you say, drawing up an image of a veiled woman entering a temple.

A temperature drop of a few degrees or a sudden draft of wind can numb my brain and make me drop to my knees from the nausea. To prevent the onset of a migraine, I need to cover up before the cold reaches my head.

2. The weather forecasts a drizzle, and you call me silly for carrying around an umbrella. You think I’m ridiculous when I’m strolling around with my umbrella on a sunny summer afternoon.

Unfortunately, dancing in the rain or sunbathing are luxuries I’ll never be able to afford. Wet hair or direct sunlight are quick to trigger my migraines, and I have to stop that, even at the cost of looking foolish.

3. It’s humid and torrid, but you see me shove a scarf into my bag before I leave for class. Or, we’re headed to the beach and I’m packing my cardigan. I seem to make no sense whatsoever!

I’m already thinking ahead, however. If the professor turns the air conditioning on in the lecture hall, I’m probably going to need a layer or two to battle an oncoming migraine. And that train ride before we reach the beach will likely be a chilly one.

4. You’re wondering why I’m so fussy buying those leggings that don’t have pockets. I’m only going out for a few minutes, so why do I need to change into a pair of trousers? Migraines always come unannounced, and when they do, I need to be prepared to fend for myself until I can get away to a quiet place. If you look in the pockets of every piece of clothing I wear out, you’ll find a stash of ibuprofen. When all my precautions and preventative medicines have failed me, I need to have rescue pills available immediately.

Some days I wish I could put on my favorite dress, do my hair just right, or grab the first shirt I find in my dresser! I’d really appreciate it if you remember that my choice of clothing is often driven by need rather than preference.

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